The Big "D" and... Kids

Nothing can prepare someone for delivering the news to their kids that you are divorcing their mother, nor is there anything that can prepare a child that this type of news is coming. Sure, signs will most likely be everywhere, but if that is all they have ever known and they believe in prayer and that God can solve any problem in life, then divorce blindsides them. Getting the courage up to tell people about the divorce, especially my kids, was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life. I too believe that God can solve any problem and was even myself a minister, which made my decision even that much harder. However, I was losing my walk with God, was not being a good husband, and most importantly to me in my decision, I was not being the kind of dad that I could be or should be to the most precious three soles on the face of this earth. It is true that you take things out on those you love even if it is not their fault, and that was sure the case for them.

One of the reasons the decisions were so difficult is that I did not think I would ever have to take my kids through this. As a dad, a Christian dad of all things, my job was to protect them from the big bad world and create a good image for them with a "normal" home living with their mother and father. I have heard several say that instead of doing this, I threw them to the wolves.

However, those people either very rarely, or never physically, witnessed the truth. I argue that my kids were living with the wolves, the very people who were supposed to be protecting them. We were not teaching them to grow and to love, but instead to be bitter. It ultimately came down to the realization that I could show them love and be a better father without the constant fighting and bickering that was going on within the home. Yes, I also made mistakes, but ultimately it was my decision too.

How are they now? From my perspective, they seem to be doing fine and have adjusted, but how do I know for sure that they are not just telling each parent what they want to hear? I can only hope and pray this is not the case. We share our laughs and good times, but at the same time, I am still their parent, right there drawing the line between right and wrong and being the enforcer. I am not here to be their best friend, but to love them, show them respect, teach them how to be responsible, and most importantly, to be their provider, shielding them from the wolves in the world.

At the same time, I am not blind to the fact that this past 20 months has been hard on them. Saying it has simply been hard is an understatement. This has been a huge change for all of us. I want them to know that I tried my best to ensure they have been shielded from the hurt as much as humanly possible, but there have been times that my emotions have gotten the best of me. I know I have not always made the best decisions during this time, been a little hard on them at other times, but I am happy to say that we have not only survived, but I honestly feel I am a better father now than I ever was before. I have learned so much about each of them this year, the most important being more about their character and their strength. I have also learned how to cook and do laundry too, a big perk.

I have told them over and over, and hope they realize that it is OK to share their emotions with me, ask questions, etc. I love my kids more than they could imagine, and am sorry that this happened, but I promise them that they are my number one priority in life no matter what happens and no matter what others think of me, and that I love them each of them with all of my heart and soul. I have already told them that although their mother and I will both be respectively moving on with our lives, that I will always be here for them, no matter whose day it is, because a dad is always there for his children.

I am very proud of them in how they have grown during this year. I have always known they were each intelligent, funny, and strong kids, and they have proven to me this year that this is truer than ever. Even so, they are human and they are still kids on the inside. I also realize that they may still be confused and need to know that none of this is their fault. Nothing that has transpired was their fault, but solely their parents. I am sorry for that. However, what is done is done and the only direction to go is forward, and in a positive manner.

I hope they grow to understand that the brother/brother and brother/sister bond is one that can never be broken. Of course what I see now is mostly fighting and disagreeing, but that is also normal brother/brother and brother/sister actions. I also see the sweet moments - the laughing, the smiling, the caring, and the love for one another. The three of them have the power to become a powerful force in this world. I hope they learn to always be nice to each other, love each other, respect each other, help each other, learn to work together, learn to play together, and always be there for each other, no matter what. And I do not just mean now as kids, but always in life. Learn to lean on each other. They need to trust me on this.

My kids witnessed a lot of bad stuff between their mother and I and have been the outlet for much of the venting and anger. I hope somehow they can learn from the mistakes that were made and capitalize on the fact that they are loved, have God in their lives and know what not to do in a relationship. They are my number 1 priority and my greatest creation. I hope and pray I will always be able to guide them to make the right decisions in life.

Divorce has been hard, as it has affected more than just the two people that divorced, but also their children, their extended families, their friends, and others. I would not wish it on anyone, but if it does happen, remember your priorities – those precious little ones.

Have a Nice Day Sir!

When the young man who uttered this phrase to me said it, he had no way of knowing what it would bring forth in terms of this post. What was said innocently and prompted by requirement made me think about the events that transpired before it and around me daily.

You see, it was this morning on my way to work after watching Michael in his quiz bowl tournament that I stopped at McDonald's. It seems every time I go there I am in for a treat in one way or another. In no way was this the typical experience that left me asking the manager if he knew what QA stood for or another asking the same manager to get in his car and drive my child's nuggets to my house. Maybe not the wisest things for me to do but under the circumstances that prompted each of those phone calls, you may have understood and agreed. Today was no exception in terms of a treat at McD's.

Pulling up to the window I am greeted by a young man who seemed happy to be on the clock, which is not the norm nowadays. He handed me my bag and promptly said did you have anything else with that today? My first thought... you have a computer screen in front of you which should tell you that I have a drink as well. It was sitting right behind him. I said yes, I have a diet coke. He spun almost robotically grabbed the drink and handed it to me saying "have a nice day sir!" First thought... he didn’t know I had a drink so I bet there is no straw. I reach into the bag and there is not one. I ask for a straw and again in the robot motion he spins, grabs a straw and hands it to me saying "have a nice day sir!" I am off thinking wow, I wish everyone could be as pleasant as this person in public for there are too many people today that won't even look at you, don’t want to do their job, but at the same moment expect to be paid for such rudeness and overall not doing a good job.

Anyway, I get down the road, reach in to the bag and open my snack wrap. It seems that whoever wrapped it placed the lettuce on the outside of the wrap. Nice. So I then reach in to the bag for a napkin. None. In my head echoes, "have a nice day sir!" and immediately I am off and running with thoughts about not only my past experiences with McDonald’s but also my experiences with the workforce in general today.

Basically I have a thought... if someone wants to be paid for a job, make them work on commission, for tips, or under a contract that stipulates what is to be done and what they must do in order to be paid. There will be no payment for half-completed jobs, shortcuts, rudeness, or a lack of caring about the customer. Will this help? Only if followed to the letter. I also feel that anyone working a job should be trained thoroughly and taught about respect and quality assurance. I learned this as a kid from my parents. Sadly, not all of today's kids are learning those lessons at home. Too many people today think they can get something for nothing and that they are entitled to have it all without working for it. I am happy to say that I have parents who taught me responsibility and to take ownership for a task. Because of that, I am proud to work hard for what I have. I have never expected something to be handed to me or that I was entitled to something just for showing up.

I wonder though, did my parents ever think that of individuals when I was a teenager? Did I act like they do today? If so, I apologize for myself and my generation and I know better now. If not, I wonder what changed and where the blame is? I have an idea that I know where to begin pointing fingers.

20 Years at Marshall... Time for some Thank Yous

I was sitting here tonight and it hit me that Monday marks the start of my 20th fall semester at Marshall University. Twenty years is a long time, more than half of my life, and when I started thinking about everything I have been able to do and accomplish in those twenty years, I thought that it was time to thank a few of those who helped me get to where I am today. First and foremost I would like to thank God for everything I am about to say as without Him in my life I would be nothing.

I came to the university as an 18-year old Freshman in August 1992, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do for a career, but knowing that I wanted to play baseball. I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to play baseball for two seasons at the university. Sure, I only played in 4 ballgames, but the memories are still fond to this day. Thank you Coach Howard McCann for the opportunity.

As an undergraduate, I floated around during my first couple of years switching from Math Education to simply Math and then to Computer Science. I will not mention any names but I guess I should thank two of the Math professors at the university that I had as an undergrad that helped convince me that I no longer wanted to major in math and instead, move to computer science. It took just a little over 5 years to graduate with my BS in Computer Science but that degree served as the basis for where I am today.

While an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Michael Little, my present department chair/boss/friend who hired me to do some programming work on a grant he had been awarded for developing computer simulations for educating WV elementary students. That position led to me meeting Dr. Jan Fox during a presentation one day. One of the boldest things I have ever done was walking out of a class as an undergraduate after that presentation to go find Jan and ask about a job she had mentioned in the meeting. Funny thing is, as I was leaving the classroom and headed down the hall, she had been coming back up the hall to find me regarding that job. She went on to hire me as the very first instructional technologist at Marshall University. Thank you Jan. After graduating and working for Jan, the university was in the process of creating the Center for Instructional Technology. I remember taking another chance and seeking out one of the Vice Presidents at the university as a 23 year old kid asking what it would take to become the director of that Center. Thank you Drs. Larry Froehlic and Dennis Prisk for taking a chance on me. Their requirement – start my masters immediately, which I did, immediately, as in 3 days after graduating. My first semester in graduate school also opened the door to teaching as Rhonda Scragg and Kim Preece from Marshall’s Community and Technical College took a chance on allowing me to teach an intro to the Internet course for the CTC. Thank you ladies. So here I was, 23 years old, director of a department at a major university, teaching my first college class, working on my masters, with a child on the way. Ironically I taught my first class 14 falls ago and Michael will be 14 this winter. He was born the day before I gave my first final exam, which was also the day I was supposed to take my first oral final exam in graduate school. Memories.

What I realized while teaching that first class was that I truly enjoyed teaching, which I had once thought I had wanted to do but was unsure of myself. Then, by December 1997, I was sure. I loved my job as the Director of the Center for Instructional Technology, but it was not allowing me to do what I liked to do the most –program and teach. I loved watching students learn, to help make a difference, to share knowledge. I trained faculty, made policy, oversaw web development at the university, and led the crusade in brining WebCT/Blackboard on to the Marshall campus as the director of instructional technology, but it wasn’t all hands on, which is the way I teach. After nearly 3 years of being the director, finishing my masters, and teaching a course each semester, I found an opening on campus within the Integrated Science and Technology department as a professor teaching computer and IT courses. Once again, I will be forever grateful to Dr. Sarah Denman-the provost of the university at the time I was hired, Dr. Tom Storch-the dean of the College of Science at the time, Dr. Bill Denman-chair of the Integrated Science and Technology Program at the time, and Dr. Michael Little. After being offered a faculty position, I was having second thoughts and doubted myself. I was simply scared that I was making the wrong decision, but it was a simple 3 minute conversation that I had with Dr. Little one day at the back of the Morrow Library in a light drizzling rain in June 2000 that convinced me that I would do well. I have reminded him of that conversation several times. After joining IST, it’s the camaraderie within the department that has kept me there, including "the boss", Wanda Dyke.

Today I can honestly say that I truly enjoy teaching. Something I have come to realize over the last 14 years as a college professor is that there have been many influential teachers in my life who I have modeled my teaching style after, which have helped me be successful. How does one measure success as a professor? I feel that a college professor can know that they are successful through their evaluations, by their student reviews, their graduates’ comments, and in my case, by being named a Pickens Queen Professor of the Year at the university in 2005. I have been fortunate enough to earn the respect of my colleagues over this time and I was able to do so without being overly cocky and pushing my agenda in anyone’s face. After all, I was a non-traditional professor, one coming in without a PhD. I learned from my mother and father early on that one should do their job, do it to the best of their abilities, earn others’ respect, and then people will learn to trust and rely on you. Something that my father may not realize today is that he has played a very large role in my success, not only through life’s lessons that he taught me over the years, but silently with his style of teaching and his sense of humor that he took to the classroom. He is the basis for my approach to the classroom. Thank you dad, and congratulations on your retirement after 40 successful years teaching young minds yourself.

Others who were influential were those who brought enthusiasm, fairness, honesty, and a caring attitude in to the classroom, such as Dr. Hisham Al-Haddad, Dr. David Cusick, and Dr. David Hatfield. Sure even the good ones can come across tough at times, but so do I. Others were also very influential for the opposite reason, meaning they were such a negative influence that I promised myself that I would never treat my students like we were treated in class. I will spare everyone the names. I actually laughed while creating this because some of my students have accused me of being unfair in the past, but they have no idea who I truly am or how much I care or how I am approaching their learning. I may come across early on as someone who doesn’t want to talk to students, who doesn’t want to help them, etc. but it’s all part of the learning process for them. I know how to get students to step out of their comfort zone and begin to learn on their own, all the while still leading them to the answer, just not giving it to them plainly. Just ask my upper-level students and graduates, many of whom have spent hours upon hours in my office just talking, getting advice, learning, etc.

A round of thanks would not be complete without the mention of what took place in the middle of my teaching career. I was approached by the aforementioned Dr. Denman, Dr. Frances Hensley-Associate Provost, Dr. Joe Bragin-the dean of the College of Science at the time, and Dr. Donna Spindel to help the university with data reporting. Little did I know at the time, but taking on this responsibility for the university in preparing reports and data from the university’s student information system would eventually lead me to exploring, pushing, and stretching the limits of what I could do or what the university wanted to allow me to do at the time in creating BERT (Banner Extraction and Reporting Tool). Silently the evolving BERT system lead to the creation of BRITE Development LLC (Business Reporting and Intelligence Tool for Education). BERT/BRITE is my proudest accomplishment while working at the university and is currently used on a daily basis, averaging over 1500 report outputs per day and is an ever-evolving tool that is being added to constantly and is currently under development to be sold at other universities.

Looking back on the 20 years of the professional side of my life in just a few moments is breath taking. I’ve accomplished a great deal while at Marshall University and have learned that great things can and do happen at the university. Here’s looking forward to the next 20 years on campus and dreaming of what can be accomplished.

Just Do It

When most people here the motto, "Just Do It", the immediately think it is so cliché or simply a reference to Nike's Ad Campaign. However, when I said it today, I knew personally what it meant for me. You see, on April 1st I weighed in at 171 pounds, which was the least I had weighed in 15 years. I was running, getting in to pretty decent shape and actually felt the best I had felt in years, lowering my blood pressure, boosting my stamina, and just overall feeling much more energetic. However, when I weighed in today, I had gained 15 pounds in just under 3 months and have been experiencing headaches and have noticed my blood pressure creeping back up.

What happened is around May 9th I had to stop jogging. At that time I was at 173 pounds. Why would I just up and stop after hitting it so hard for a year? My knees had started hurting in March and then by mid-April, after running I could barely walk and could hardly get out of bed the next morning. They were hurting so bad that I cut back drastically and then had to stop jogging all together. I could not umpire after jogging and I feared I could not even get out on the field and coach either sons’ baseball team. However, the pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and that’s coming from someone who had their meniscus torn and who had arthroscopic surgery to repair that tear nearly 23 years ago. Several told me that they thought it was IT Band syndrome based on my symptoms and from what I had read, it sounded to be so. I was thankful that it did not appear to be another tear , especially a

ligament tear. Went and finally saw the doctor in June and he gave me some exercises, but I was still coaching and umpiring so much that I did not want to risk it. Oddly, as long as I did not jog umpiring did not bother me at all, even though some games would lead to 350+ squats calling balls and strikes.

So anyway, back to today. I was tired of feeling how I had begun feeling and watching my stomach expand once again, my belt tighten, headaches creep in almost daily, and my knees ache to go up and down the steps. So I thought to myself, just do it. I was going to run no matter if it hurt or not. Of course, I was not going to go out and destroy my body totally, but I set a goal to go for 20 minutes, this being the first run in 84 days. In that time, I was able to cover a respectable 2.19 miles and afterwards, could still walk with little pain. Sitting here now I am pain free and smiling, knowing that I will be able to hit the pavement in a couple of days again, working my way back up over 4 miles and hopefully back under 180 pounds in the next few weeks.

If you want something bad enough, take control, get out there, and just do it, if anything, for yourself!

Here is also thinking about a good friend of mine in Arizona who just had the same type of surgery I had this past Friday. Hope he is up and running in no time!

Weighing In

Weighing In

Five years ago in April I weighed in... at 206 pounds. I had noticed slowly the weight coming on and just kept going in life. My clothes were getting way too tight, I was eating way too much, and my blood pressure was getting way too high. Did any of that phase me? Not then. I saw pictures of myself and could not believe what I saw. I had always hated pictures of myself anyway, so I dismissed it. It was not until one day I was walking down the hall at work and I noticed something ahead of me bouncing across the carpet that it hit me. What the little bouncing object turned out to be was the button off of the pair of pants I was wearing.

I added on to the house that same year I hit my top weight and lost
30 pounds. I felt great. However, it was short lived as I put nearly all of it back on that winter and was back up to 196. Over the next three plus years I stayed active and lost weight and generally felt better, but I rarely saw the 180s again, all the while my blood pressure staying up.

Finally last summer I started jogging. I had never been able to jog as my knee would always hurt – had surgery at age 14. At first, could barely do a mile. Then the pain set in and I gave up jogging for about the 4th time in my adult life… just said I will not be able to do it with the pain. Then, it hit me. Push through it. The last time I pushed through it though I ended up with a cortisone shot as the pain was not simply present when I jogged, but so unbearable even just to walk that I was limping. However, something was different this time. Not only did I want to try again and push through it, but I was determined to do it and do it well.

I worked myself up to 2 miles slowly until September and still weighed in at 189. I made another change – I started eating healthier. I was never a junk food guy, but I just ate LOTS of food. At first, I cut back on the size of meals. Then I started choosing smarter meals. I kept jogging. I hit 180 pounds in the middle of the winter and was happy. Goal achieved.

Funny though as I did not stop there. I have not been trying to lose additional pounds, but I have kept jogging and now get to work out on occasion and am rarely eating out any more and it has made the biggest difference in the world. Proud to say that I weighed in today at 171 pounds, a weight less than I weighed nearly 15 years ago. Again, not in it for losing any additional weight, but I truly feel better than I have felt in a LONG LONG time.

Falling Out of the Sky

For those of you who know me, you know that I get nervous about flying. I know it is a convenient way to travel since you can get there quick, not have to worry about driving, traffic, or all of the other idiots on the road, but it is the fact that many people survive car crashes and not so many plane crashes. That and I feel like I am not in control, which I am not.

So yesterday I get to fly from Greenville, NC (site of East Carolina University) back home after working a basketball game for CBS College Sports. First flight, I get nervous as I am leaving Greenville with a sports team on board – the Memphis men's golf team. So I text my son and brother about the oddity. The flight ends up being OK, landing in Charlotte.

Then I have a 3 hour lay over in Charlotte. About an hour before the flight, I see the Marshall women's basketball team walk in and sit down near where I am. Now I am terribly nervous as my thought processes start going a million miles a minute... flying back from ECU on a plane in a storm with a Marshall sports team. I know the likelihood of something like that happening is VERY VERY small, but I always think about the possibilities. Some call me an alarmist. Some call me a realist. Others call me ridiculous because I worry.

So before boarding, they start announcing that the flight is overbooked and they need 3 volunteers to come forward to give up their seats and that they will give them $275 in air miles and fly them home tomorrow, etc. No one budges so they said OK, we will see who gets left off, here’s how we are going to do it. They asked for all of their preferred travelers, etc. first, then the basketball team. Long story short, thank you Coach Chadwick for ensuring I got on to that flight.

So we board and the stewardess kept telling people to go to the back, back up, you have to leave your seats in the first couple of rows, etc. but are not explaining things. Finally they let others on and eventually board even those that they had originally asked to stay behind. The stewardess was a hoot... best ever. She admitted that the captain had a weight balancing issue with all of the baggage and people and that they had to move around luggage and had to shift people to ensure an even load because it was so full. She even said that originally the captain had asked to leave 6 people behind.

So we take off. Uneventful flight, all is normal, good weather until just outside of Charleston. When we were nearing the airport, I could see lightning in the distance and started to think, ah, no biggie, that storm is long gone. It was late so of course I couldn’t tell how hard it was raining, etc. but as we neared the runway, I could tell that it was barely raining but as he came down on to the runway, which of course, rises up out of nowhere, it was as if the fog just rolled in, thick. The surprise must have gotten the pilot’s attention as well as he brought the plane down on to the runway, hard, and fast. When I say hard, it was really hard, hardest landing ever. The stewardess even joked afterward and said told you all we were heavy... we may have just popped a tire back there. Glad she tried to take the pressure off of the situation. And then, as soon as we taxied in to the terminal, it started POURING. I kept praying the entire flight and immediately smiled, thanking over and over. It seemed surreal. Thought to myself immediately that the hard landing and being able to keep control of a speeding aircraft may have been different in a downpour.

Now I am left to wonder... was this landing or the one in Huntington a couple of years ago where the plane touched down, nearly tipped to one side before righting itself and then slamming the thrusters on that short little runway worse? Personally I didn't like either one of them… no I didn't. I don't like falling out of the sky.

Who needs the BCS when you have the NCAA Super Rankings

For years I had wanted to create my own NCAA football poll, and in 2006, I finally did so, naming the site the NCAA Super Rankings. I love numbers and have always tinkered with formulas, rankings, etc. In 2006 I set out to create a poll that is based on a mathematical formula that would ultimately prove who should play for a national championship in major college football, since a playoff system does not exist (that’s an entirely different topic).

After yesterday’s action, I can say that each of the five years that I have kept my poll, it has successfully predicted who will play in the national championship. This year was a bit iffy, but it’s unreal how the math works itself out. In my poll, you really cannot determine true rankings until after 5-6 weeks of action because of all of the secondary calculations that have to be done based on what teams you have beat, how well they do the rest of the season, etc. However, Auburn has been on top of my poll since week 1 (never had that happened before). What else was ironic is TCU held the number 2 spot in my poll most of the year, even after Oregon’s win yesterday, but once the late games were factored in showing how the rest of Oregon’s opponents did last night, the Ducks rose to number 2, setting up an Oregon/Auburn national championship, just like what is to take place.

I have had several people ask about my formula and unfortunately, I won’t divulge it, other than to say it is based on 3 levels of points… wins/losses, opponents’ wins/losses, and margin of victory. It does not take in to account home field advantage, rain, snow, etc. I have tweaked the formula ever so slightly in the last five years, but even so, I don’t touch it during the season.

I have also added several features to my site over the last five years including team schedules, stats on the college football season, bowl eligible team indications, how well a team fared against other top 10, top 25, and top 50 teams as well as the record of teams they beat and teams they lost to, past rankings by year, and even an overall ranking using my formula since I started the system. I have had a lot of fun working on the site and plan to work in the off-season to promote it as a viable computer option to the system that we are currently stuck with, aka, BCS.

Now true, you may not be happy with ALL of the rankings as the #5 Buckeyes’ fans may be upset that Boise is ahead of them at #4, but the math does not lie. The one constant across rankings systems should not be one’s personal bias as to liking one team over another, etc. but it should be the math and that’s exactly what my poll brings to the table.

For anyone interested in viewing the site, it is found at

If anyone has any questions or would like to make comments on the system


Let me first say that it’s been a long time since my last post after trying to stay active. Let’s just say that life sometimes gets in the way and causes changes in even the best laid plans.

So I’ve had this thought for a couple of weeks now and wanted to express how it relates to dealing with individuals. I can’t remember the exact situation in which the thought arose but do remember that Michael and Katie were in the truck with me and one of them said something and I took off on it. Sounded profound at the time, so let’s see how it sounds now.

Let’s say you encounter someone on a street corner who his screaming the phrases “HELP HELP I’M LOST I’M LOST” at the top of their lungs. What are you going to do? Obviously it depends on the situation, especially if they appear to be hurt or perhaps they are a child. However, let’s assume it’s an everyday run-of-the-mill adult who looks perfectly normal. What would you do? I may be in the minority, but I would imagine that most people will look at the person and are going to steer clear of them, especially since they are just screaming that they are lost. However, if that person were to approach you, calmly ask you for assistance in finding where they are going, then what is a person more apt to do? I believe that they would be more inclined to assist that person.

The same principle applies to other situations in life. It’s hard to help someone who simply comes into the room screaming that they are lost and they have no idea what to do or sends an email in all caps stating that they have no idea what they are doing and that they need help. Or perhaps they say they have an issue and want to know what it could be without any other details. I am not sure why this is the case, but it happens very frequently and with some simple pre-planning could be avoided altogether.

And don’t get me wrong… it’s not that I don’t want to help individuals, but their actions and panic makes it nearly impossible to assist and ends up causing us all to waste valuable time. First, think about how you approach any other situation in life. Do you do it haphazardly without forethought or a little advanced planning and research? Well, I know some will answer yes to that, but for the most part, I guarantee that is not the case. For example, do you just run out and buy a $50,000 car if you are working a minimum wage job? No, you research and plan and look for a possible solution beforehand. Or do you just tear open the drywall in your room to find out why your light is not working or do you think about checking the light bulb first?

Those who come with their trials and errors and previous work in hand, who have first tried to resolve their issues/problems, those who ask calmly are showing me that they are trying, that they have exhausted their options before reaching out for assistance…. Those are the ones that make life easier and my job fun. It shows me that they are willing to be taught as they have reached a certain point in their education where they need guidance and with a gentle push in the right direction, they will be back on track, trudging along to find the overall solution and make themselves better life-long learners.

Chyron Infinite vs. Duet

To probably 99.5% of the population, the title of this blog makes no sense. However, to probably 10% of my friends list on Facebook, it makes perfect sense and maybe even makes some shudder. Both are graphics generator packages for television production. Infinite was related by Chyron sometime in the late 80s and Duet is its newer, bigger, faster Windows based system that modern-day HD programs with their wonderful transformations and animations are created in. Well, at least the live graphics that is. No one uses Infinite anymore, correct? Well, not exactly.

I worked the Marshall/East Carolina basketball game yesterday for WSAZ (well, it really wasn't a game but that’s another story – congrats Herd!) as the font coordinator. I showed up, truck was powered up and met the operator (person who makes the graphics engine sing and dance). For those of you who don’t know what I do, the font coordinator is also known as an associate producer who helps build all of the graphics for the game (thus the reason I always have to be at a game 6-7 hours before the start) and then keeps track of where those graphics are located in the system (page numbers) and works with the producer on when those pages will be aired. I also work hand-in-hand with the stats people (or in my case yesterday, me) to update player and team stats during the game through the operator. On a good day, I get a mild headache and get to watch about 50% of a game.

Yesterday, the operator met me with a smiling face. He was a Duet guy. No problem. All of today’s shows are done on Duet. Well, not yesterday. The truck had an Infinite on it. Slight problem but not a deal breaker. Then I found out that the initial graphics package was built for, you guessed it, a Duet. And to make matters worse, the operator was only 22 and had never touched an Infinite. Call time was 1pm. We spent the next hour trying to decide what to do. We were able to take the graphics package, pull out about 8 back plates (pre-made colors/logos/etc) and place them on a USB flash drive. For the techies, the Infinite is not Windows based and the only way to add items to it was via Zip and a specific file format. So we hooked up a computer with a super graphics card (Bug Box) to do still frame captures from the bug to the Infinite. Timing was off and colors were bad. It's 4pm, tip at 7pm and we have nothing.

The TD offers up a suggestion and someone at WSAZ (Isaac and Edwin) come through with a piece of equipment to bring to the truck that we can use to route our graphics from the Bug Box in to the Infinite for capture. We get going. Problem – keying is off and the graphics are not going to be perfect. It's 5:30 and we still have 0 graphics. With a Duet, it's Windows-based, we use Excel spreadsheets to populate stats and player information, etc. and truly you can have 1000s of pages built in a matter of minutes with a good pre-designed font package, which is what we were all expecting. Not this time.

I feel bad for the operator they hired as by 5:30 he's already been let go and is on the road back to Cleveland. Nice drive. Jack Deakin calls in someone from the station to run Infinite, but he has not done it for some time and is raw. He has never worked a ballgame either. Jeff Browning (JB) spends a while get

ting used to the machine but is able to pull off our 8 back-plates and we get to building graphics... For those who know the business, no tabs, no pre-built shells, we are raw and near air-time.

We pull off an open with a title card, announcers font, 2 keys to the game pages, and a sponsored starting lineups page. Whew. During the minute of the game, we build a basic team comparison. No player stats/fonts yet at all. During the second segment, we build an in-game player graphic. During the rest of the first half, graphics are sporadic, but timely and Jeff is flying on the machine now. I promised I wouldn't push him at the beginning, but I wanted graphics :) By halftime, we had 10 team comparison shells and in-game player shells for every player. He was good. JB saved this one. Second half, we popped out graphics left and right for stats and were able to do scores to break quickly and even a player of the game font.

Mind you, at 6:15, we had 1 graphic. We were to go live at 7. We ended up probably using 150 or so graphics in the show, all created live, the day of, and most of which were created in-game. I had never worked a game quite like this before and frankly don't want to again, but if I do, I told JB I'd work with him again. He did an awesome job, especially for someone who woke up on Saturday having no idea what his night was going to be like.

About Me

Associate Professor, Integrated Science and Technology
Marshall University

Brian Morgan is a native of Chesapeake, Ohio and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Marshall University and a Master of Science Degree in Technology Management from the Marshall University Graduate College. He has served as an assistant professor in the Integrated Science and Technology Program at Marshall University since the Fall 2000 semester, and as an associate professor since Summer 2008. His current interests are e-commerce applications and the development of interactive computer-based learning simulations for K-12 students.

He has taught several different courses in computer and information technology, including e-commerce, database systems, C++ programming, Java programming, operating systems, multimedia systems and programming, and data structures with C++. He has also worked over the past four years to help reshape the curriculum of the Integrated Science and Technology’s computer and information technology major to better fit the needs of area employers.

Prior to beginning his teaching career, Brian served as Marshall University’s Director of the Center for Instructional Technology from 1997 to 2000. He was responsible for the everyday duties of the Center, as well as managing Instructional Technology and World Wide Web Development on both the Huntington and South Charleston campuses of Marshall University, and coordinating faculty and staff IT development training programs.

His career using technology at the professional level began in 1996 when he was hired as the first Instructional Technologist at Marshall University. In this role, he was responsible for working with Information Technology staff and faculty from a variety of disciplines on the selection and production of CD-ROM-based and WWW-based multimedia instructional materials, assisting faculty and staff through training and consulting in integrating computing and information resources into the curriculum, tracking current and emerging Internet and development technologies, and aiding in the progression and completion of technology grants.

Brian currently resides in Proctorville, Ohio with his wife Melissa and their three children Michael, Katie, and Alex.

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